‘Compare and Contrast: Peritoneal Mesothelioma’ is the second article in a two-part series that explores the two most common types of mesothelioma cancer –including the symptoms, causes, treatment options and general prognosis.
Peritoneal is the second most common type of mesothelioma, occurring in around 10-20% of all diagnosed cases. Pleural mesothelioma has the highest rate of occurrence, by far, constituting as many as 90% and no fewer than 75% of diagnoses. Two additional types of mesothelioma—pericardial and testicular—are far less prevalent, constituting less than 1% of mesothelioma cases, respectively.
The manner of cancer development seen in patients with mesothelioma of the peritoneum—a protective lining around the abdominal cavity— is very much the same as that seen in patients with mesothelioma of the pleura. In the case of the former, however, toxic asbestos particles usually enter the body through the process of ingestion after being swallowed (rather than inhaled). Those microscopic, crystal-like fibers then lodge themselves in the peritoneum’s delicate membrane and cause it to scar until a tumor forms. When the tumor is malignant (as opposed to benign, or non-cancerous), the diagnosis given is mesothelioma.
Both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma is definitively diagnosed through a biopsy—a medical procedure involving the removal of a small piece of affected tissue that is then analyzed to determine whether or not cancerous cells exist. Some common screening tools used to try and eliminate a mesothelioma diagnosis, prior to a biopsy being conducted, include x-rays and imaging techniques like MRIs and CT scans. Only when other, non-invasive methods have been exhausted will a physician generally opt to do a biopsy.
Symptoms of peritoneal mesothelioma include pain and swelling in the abdominal area, frequent nausea or indigestion, fever and anemia. Most of those can also be indicators of far less serious conditions—from food poisoning to lactose intolerance—making them easy to ignore until it’s too late. One of the most serious symptoms found in mesothelioma patients, which usually does not occur until the very last stages of the disease, is bowel obstruction. Though rare, an intestinal blockage is often a final sign of the damage caused by cancerous cells attacking the body.
In addition to the pain and discomforts that malignant mesothelioma causes, the side effects of treatment tend also to have a ravaging effect on the body. Particularly in the case of chemotherapy, patients undergoing cancer treatment may experience a significant loss in energy, appetite and physical strength—often leading to additional weight loss and sometimes malnutrition.
One of the most important things for both pleural and peritoneal mesothelioma sufferers to do, especially during the treatment phase, is eat a variety of healthy, nutrient-rich foods. Fruits and vegetables are a necessary staple in any diet, as they provide the body with many important vitamins and minerals. Protein is needed to build and/or support muscle mass; and complex carbohydrates (like whole-wheat bread, pasta and rice) provide much-needed energy, as well as fiber (which aids in functioning of the digestive tract).